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Debbie Barber and Rachel Wegrzyn: Grounding

September 30, 2023 @ 10:00 am November 1, 2023 @ 4:00 pm

Debbie Barber and Rachel Wegrzyn: Grounding

30 September – 1 November 2023

Opening: Saturday 30 September, 2-4pm

In Grounding, Debbie Barber and Rachel Wegrzyn find an expressive medium in earth and other organic matter, assembling and shaping them to convey that which verbal utterances can fail to capture. Although earth isn’t inherently fragile–just as the mind is capable of being both robust and unsteady–in certain states it can be brittle, crumbling, cracking; it can dissipate into a fine dust under pressure, be reshaped by the imprint of external forces, or erupt under volatile conditions. Barber and Wegrzyn excavate the poetic capacity of clay and the volcanic in search of a visual language of the mind’s condition.

Debbie Barber’s installation Would love to call over this week and say hullo is an interactive piece that marks a path between the gallery doors, creating an invitation to gallery visitors to participate and walk over the path, hear the crunch of crushing bone dry clay underfoot and participate in marking a journey. The chance forms which make  up this path are clay spoils, they describe the space between the potter and the pot. Much like when someone has dementia, they leave a trace of what was in the hope of finding some understanding, surpassing a desired outcome, and instead recreate an alternative motivation. Supporting this site specific floor installation is a wall mounted assemblage titled How long is a fortnight? As long as I can remember what I did, a grid of fourteen deteriorating raw ceramic tiles which reference time, memory and uncertainty.

For Rachel Wegrzyn, making art is therapeutic. Her work is a part of herself and reflects the various states of her mental health. It is dark, with chasmic forms. The depression that underlies the artist’s life is volcanic–an eruption followed by a slow and unrelenting crawl. Wegrzyn’s series is titled Dormant. Each work is a blend of plasters, ground lava stone (basalt), Japanese ink and calligraphy paper, which is then applied to canvas by hand. As the work begins to dry, Wegrzyn uses heat, volcanic stones and tools to manipulate and sculpt the surface.

Accompanying her Dormant works is Imprint, a number of reliefs that trace what is left behind. In an amalgam of plaster and Japanese ink, voids, depressions, shadows and caves are formed by a process of casting over stones, plisse fabric, and found natural materials: moss, seed pods, and volcanic stones which are left embedded in some surfaces. Wegrzyn’s work is sculptural and atmospheric; yet cavernous and black. This is a conceptual tension the artist finds beautiful. She massages wet and raw materials into emotive landscapes. The process is meditative. Slow motion recordings capture some of this method: ink stained skin, and plaster flaking from the palms of her hands and fingers. The aftermath.

Image courtesy of Debbie Barber.

Image courtesy of Debbie Barber.

About the Artists

Debbie Barber is a ceramic artist who holds a BFA in Sculpture from Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University. Currently living in Tāmaki Makaurau, Debbie began establishing her own art practice in 2019 influenced by her mum’s journey with dementia and grounded in a reflective practice considering identity, time and memory. She is also known by her maiden name; Debbie Lawrence. Past exhibitions include: The Parkin Drawing Prize, National Contemporary Art Award, Auckland Studio Potters Fire and Clay, and Shifting at Arthaus Contemporary Gallery, all 2023; Pushing Clay Uphill, the inaugural Contemporary Ceramics Award and Exhibition, Nelson 2022, Bread and Butter at Grey, 2022, Owhango Summer Sculpture Show 2020/2021, and the Paragon Matter Pop Up in Devonport, 2019.

Rachel Wegrzyn (b. 1993) is a multi disciplinary designer, in the fields of art, architecture, and design. Born in Ōtautahi and currently travelling through Japan, Wegrzyn graduated from The University of Auckland in 2018 with a Masters of Architecture. Past exhibitions include Dancing with Myself, a group exhibition facilitated by Arfull (2022), Volcanic Series, Public Record (2022), Modos, Gus Fisher Gallery (2017), and the Simon Devitt Prize for Photography exhibition, George Fraser Gallery (2017).

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